A flock of ducks offered an escort as the Valley View Ferry crossed the misty Kentucky River at the end of Tates Creek Road. near Nicholasville, Kentucky, Wednesday August 22, 2012. Fog is expected to clear by mid morning with sunny skies expected this afternoon. The ferry runs Mon.-Fri. 6 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. 8am-8pm Photo by Charles Bertram | Employee

Herald Leader

The Valley View Ferry, a Kentucky River paddlewheeler that helps people get between Madison, Fayette and Jessamine counties, is expected to receive major but necessary upgrades in the coming months that could disrupt passenger commutes.

More than $100,000 is estimated by the Valley View Ferry Authority Board to replace engines, an air compressor and overhead wires on an eight-year-old vessel, which could take more than a month.

The disassembled air compressor is nearly $4,900 and both engines are $46,498 including removal and replacement costs. A bid for the overhead lines was approved in November at a cost of $38,739. Additional costs for the overhead line replacement project for the cables and other hardware include $16,470 for the cables and $1,818 for the hardware associated with the project.

The ferry authority has also budgeted $15,000 in labor to remove and replace the engine.

The authority plans for all upgrades to take place at the same time in December, reducing the time the boat closes. The board hopes to get the ship out of the river by mid-month, but the date depends on logistics as to when a contractor can be hired to get the boat out of the water.

Todd Lockhart, the chair of the Valley View Ferry Authority Board, said the boat could be out of service for four to six weeks. Although winter is more of a “down time” for the ferry and its drivers, the down time could be extended around the bank holidays.

“We want to run these two projects concurrently so we minimize our downtime and the impact on everyone,” Lockhart said.

A paddle wheel propels the Valley View Ferry across the Kentucky River. From Friday, the ferry no longer ran on weekends, and on weekdays it ended at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m Herald Leader

The ferry authority has been working for two years to secure grants and equipment for the new repairs.

“We have a plan to follow up on anything that we have identified as needing help,” said Steve Cox, a Jessamine County Ferry Committee representative. “… I see that very positively right now. A plan for all parts of it. Since I’ve been on this board, everyone has had a chance to talk about something the boats need and identify things.

“I’m seeing a plan we’ve never had before.”

The Valley View Ferry Authority Board consists of seven representatives from Fayette, Jessamine and Madison counties. There are two members from Fayette County, two members from Jessamine County, and three from Madison County. Each honorary member is appointed and serves a four-year term. The ferry is partially funded by all three counties.

An electrician said the boat had some problems documented in a marine survey, including blistering causing stress cracks and incorrect wiring.

“I didn’t feel like the boat was unsafe or needed to be taken out of the water, but I did find things that needed to be addressed at the next level of maintenance,” he said William Padgett, a certified electrician with the American Boat and Yacht Council.

Padgett also said that while some wiring does not meet current standards, conditions could have been the standards required just a few years ago because Coast Guard and American Boat and Yacht Council standards are constantly changing.

The Valley View boat will still have one glaring problem

Despite these necessary upgrades, the boat will still have one major flaw when it reopens: it was built backwards.

The hull frame of the boat was reportedly built backwards when it was launched almost a decade ago with a price tag of $675,540. It is unclear if the boat was designed that way before it was built.

At a board meeting in August, some of the board members in the room came as a shock when Senior Captain Clayton Embly told them the boat was improperly built.

“It’s clearly backwards, the water has nowhere to go,” Embly said. “The fact that it was built backwards creates a lot of problems,” Embly said in his captain’s report.

He first noticed it when a member of the Towboat Committee, a subcommittee of the ferry, gave Embly plans to look into and address other issues.

Lockhart confirmed after being alerted at a board meeting that the boat appears to be built backwards – although he said he was no expert on the subject.

“This was new to both me and everyone else in the meeting,” Lockhart said.

Valley View’s current boat, named John Craig II, was launched on December 2, 2014 and built by Grandview Welding Company of Tompkinsville. Designs executed by Grandview Welding were submitted by Marine Design, Inc. of Gulf Breeze, Florida.

The boat was purchased with a $600,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration plus $100,000 from local funds. Each county allocated $25,000 toward the purchase of the John Craig II, and an additional $25,000 was earned on the John Craig, its predecessor. Founded in 1780, the ferry is considered Kentucky’s oldest operating company.

Captain Will Horn, left, spoke to a motorist as the ferry crossed the Kentucky River. The resignation of the only other captain last week forced the ferry to reduce its operating hours and days. Herald Leader

Rather than buying a new boat, the board plans to proceed with the upgrades now outlined. They will use grants from the Ferry Boat Program to pay for at least some of the new equipment.

But continuing with a backward-facing boat can create additional problems, Embly said. These problems can cause the boat to fail in other areas and result in higher fuel costs to operate the vessel.

Embly said there are several ways to address the problem, including cutting off a section from the stern or buying a new boat.

“Of course there’s an option to do nothing, but my observation from watching it or sitting on it when I ride on it is that it’s definitely not riding right and it’s because the water isn’t being diverted properly,” he said cox “You can fix that. It’s going to be expensive, but it can be fixed.”

Lockhart said the ferry authority plans to continue with repairs despite the boat’s overall problem, as buying a new boat could take years and they would still need to have a boat in the water during that time.

Concerns about the cost of the ferry

Anita Day, a Nicholasville representative on the board, asked if the nearly $700,000 price point was the usual price tag for a boat — particularly one that was backwards engineered.

According to Embly, boats resembling the John Craig II are priced at around $200,000 to $250,000.

When the Herald leader contacted Grandview Welding, Secretary Sandra Guffey said the company’s owner was unavailable to answer questions and referred the ferry authority to comment on problems with the boat or the price of the boat.

With the new engines, air compressor and overhead wires getting underway, the board hopes all work can take place around the same time in December. The ferry is closed during maintenance.

About 200 people ride the ferry every day, according to Embly. The ferry makes its journey faster by avoiding major highways. Some just enjoy a nostalgic trip across the river.

Deckhand Joe Gadd prepared to cast off as the Valley View Ferry, operated by Captain Dave Sanders, made the 370-foot trip across the Kentucky River from Madison County. The ferry on the Fayette/Jessamine/Madison County lines reopened at 6 a.m. Wednesday. Widely regarded as the oldest continuously operating company in the Commonwealth, it was closed for three weeks for a mandatory five-year Coast Guard inspection and maintenance. The ferry runs for free Monday to Friday from 6am to 6pm and Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 6pm. Herald Leader

According to Embly, about 60 to 70% of travelers are “regulars,” with most coming from the Madison County side of the river.

The ferry shutdown could add an hour to commuters’ journeys, which would result in additional gas costs, Embly said.

The boat’s seamen continue to be paid while the boat is out of the water for repairs and have other chores to attend to while the boat is being repaired. The board has also voted to spend $6,000 to send the Sailors to complete standardization training at maritime schools. The training provides the sailors with additional safety know-how.

Embly said the training is important as the crew should be well trained on one of the country’s oldest ships.

“That’s going to be the best thing we can do for our boys,” Embly said. “Not to mention it lets our boys know we’re making a significant investment in you because we appreciate you.”

Taylor Six is ​​a criminal justice reporter for the Herald-Leader. She was born and raised in Lexington and attended Lafayette High School. She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018 with a degree in journalism. She previously worked as a government reporter for the Richmond Register.